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This article in SSSAJ

  1. Vol. 66 No. 2, p. 523-530
    Received: June 21, 2001

    * Corresponding author(s): karlglasener@cs.com
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Contributions of Shoot and Root Nitrogen-15 Labeled Legume Nitrogen Sources to a Sequence of Three Cereal Crops

  1. Karl M. Glasener *a,
  2. Michael G. Waggerb,
  3. Charles T. MacKownc and
  4. Richard J. Volkb
  1. a American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, and Soil Science Society of America, 900 Second Street, NE, Suite 205, Washington, DC 20002
    b Dep. of Soil Science, North Carolina State Univ., Box 7619, Raleigh, NC 27695-7619
    c USDA-ARS, Grazinglands Research Lab., 7202 W. Cheyenne Street, El Reno, OK 73036


Legume mulches are important sources of N for cereal crop production, particularly for organic and resource-poor producers. A field study was conducted using a direct method to determine if the amount of N in cereal crops derived from either the shoots or roots of preceding tropical legume cover crops was affected by their chemical composition and mineralization potential. Desmodium ovalifolium Guill. & Perr. [= D adscendens (Sw.) DC. and Pueraria phaseoloides (Roxb.) Benth.], were grown in 6.0-m2 microplots and foliar-labeled with 99 atom % 15N urea. A cereal sequence of maize (Zea mays L.)–rice (Oryza sativa L.)–maize followed the legumes. Cereal accumulation of legume N from either the shoot (shoot + leaf litter) or the root-soil sources was evaluated by spatially separating the legume N sources. This was achieved by interchanging surface applications of nonlabeled and 15N-labeled legume shoots with in situ 15N-labeled and nonlabeled legume roots. Initially the Desmodium shoot N source contained 316 kg N ha−1 and roots contained 12.5 kg N ha−1 Pueraria shoots and root N sources initially contained 262 and 14.8 kg N ha−1, respectively. About 90 g kg−1 of the initial N of each legume shoot was recovered in the total aboveground tissues from the three cereal crops, while 490 g kg−1 of Desmodium and 280 g kg−1 of Pueraria root-soil N sources were recovered. Of the 181 kg N ha−1 accumulated aboveground by the cereal sequence, the contribution of shoot plus root-soil N sources was 200 g kg−1 from Desmodium and 150 g kg−1 from Pueraria Cereal N was derived primarily from mineralization of soil organic matter present before the legumes and possibly from N deposition (precipitation and dry) occurring during the cereal crop sequence. After harvest of the last cereal crop, 13 and 180 g kg−1 of the initial legume N was present as inorganic and organic N fractions, respectively, in the top 75 cm of soil. Even though Pueraria shoots had a lower C:N ratio and concentration of polyphenols than Desmodium shoots, the relative contributions of the shoot N source were similar for both legumes. Decomposition of legume residues, particularly legume shoots, make a meaningful contribution to the N economy of cereal crops grown in the tropics. The legume cover crops (root + shoot) contributed nearly 280 g kg−1 of the aboveground N in the first cereal crop and as much as 110 g kg−1 of the N in the third crop during the 15-mo sequence of cereals.

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Copyright © 2002. Soil Science SocietyPublished in Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J.66:523–530.